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A lot has changed at Redskins’ Park since coach Jay Gruden was let go and interim head coach Bill Callahan took over the team. Most notably, the Redskins pulled off their first win of the season on the road against the winless Miami Dolphins.
The victory isn’t necessarily the most convincing since the Dolphins aren’t a good team this year but it’s a step in the right direction. Callahan’s biggest test is showing up on Sunday at FedEx Field when the San Francisco 49ers come to town.
The 49ers are 5-0 and top of the league in almost every category. San Francisco is 3rd in offense (408 ypg), 2nd in rushing (179.8 ypg), 1st in passing (150.2 ypg), and 2nd in total defense (237.4). Overall, they’re starting to experience the success everyone expected before quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo tore his ACL.
“It’s been definitely more fun this year than the last two years. I’ve also been in this long enough to just sit here – I’m not celebrating anything yet,” 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan noted. “We’re 5-0, it’s very early. I’ve been 5-0 and finished 8-8 before, so 5-0 doesn’t guarantee anything.”
One of the most noticeable changes over the last two years is how much the 49ers’ defense has improved with the addition guys such as Nick Bosa, Richard Sherman and Kwon Alexander.
“Top to bottom, they do a lot of really good things to complement each other, the scheme compliments the players,” Redskins’ offensive coordinator Kevin O’Connell said. “They do a really good job of fitting their playmakers in spots by down and distance where they want to try and make some plays, whether it’s pressure here from the nickel spot or safety pressure, whatever it is. It’ll be a huge test across the board.”
Coach Callahan made it very clear that he wants his tenure to focus on the run. He kept that promise in the Dolphin game as running back Adrian Peterson recorded a season-high 118 yards on 23 attempts. On the other hand, the 49ers’ run defense might make that a more difficult task this week.
“They’re incredibly powerful up front,” O’Connell explained. “You’re going to play against a loaded box for a lot of the day. Right about the time you get locked in on this or that, they do something different. You’ve got to be very careful trying to be too aggressive in those situations when those plays present themselves.”
Callahan also added fullback Michael Burton to the roster this week, which further solidifies his commitment to the run.
“I like having a fullback,” Callahan stated. “Every place I’ve been, we’ve had a fullback. I like the two-back running game. I just think it gives you a totally different dimension.”
The Redskins will have to pull out all the stops to upset a surging 49ers team. However, if they’re able to make it happen, Bill Callahan will have a more compelling win to hang his hat on.